By Christopher Staten
October 5, 2018

Biosecurity featured as key topic at this year’s CSU AgInnovation Summit

Why are DARPA, the FBI and thought-leaders in Blockchain technology interested in U.S. agriculture? According to the third-annual CSU AgInnovation Summit, held by CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences at the Lory Student Center, the answer might cause some pause: Biosecurity.

Since 2015, the college, in partnership with the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of Engagement, has invited leaders in agriculture and related fields to the summit to discuss the challenges facing our domestic food supply and production. This year, the theme — “Safe. Secure. Sustainable” — focused on ensuring the future safety of U.S. agriculture from natural causes and targeted bio-terrorism attacks.

Watch more videos from the summit.

Safe and secure food supply

Over the course of two days, panelists and keynote speakers comprised of leaders in agriculture, technology and domestic security engaged with a captivated audience of 200. The consensus: In order to mitigate disaster, the community needs to lead the charge in developing and implementing cutting-edge technologies.

“CSU’s AgInnovation Summit is an opportunity for the great minds in agricultural innovation to convene around some thoughts around grant challenges,” said James Pritchett, executive associate dean of the college. “An important aspect of that is really understanding how we influence our natural resources, and how we can be good stewards of that—and today we’re having a lot of talks that focus on that very thing, about how we create a safe and secure food supply.”

Future risks and challenges

The summit featured two prominent leaders in agriculture: Kevin Shea, administrator at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

Shea provided the morning keynote with an overview of the current risks U.S. agriculture and natural resources face. As the lead national agency for agricultural emergencies and disasters, APHIS is uniquely positioned to tackle preparedness challenges for a variety of risks, including African swine fever, citrus greening, and pests.

Rockey expanded on the theme of the summit to address future challenges of feeding a potential population of 9 billion people by 2050, the importance of implementing and developing new technology to create a more efficient supply line, and the necessity of bridging the gap between public and private entities to collaborate on food insecurity solutions.

“The biggest threat to the future of the planet is not agriculture,” a point Rockey made in her presentation. “It is our inability to work together to apply the solutions we have at hand to the problems we face.”

To cap off the event, former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was a keynote speaker in 2017 and this year’s Honorary Event Chair, made closing remarks to re-emphasize the importance of our natural resources and securing food supply chains into the future.

Prevention, prediction, mitigation and response

Two panel discussions dove deeper into the threats against U.S. agriculture, from prevention and prediction to mitigation and response. The panels featured members from the FBI, DARPA, IBM, JBS, and other entities invested in the safety of our natural resources. Emerging technology, such as blockchain, allow for precision detection of outbreaks, which not only makes detection and response more efficient, it also has the ability to pinpoint the source without completely halting the supply chain.

Coalition for Epi-Response Engagement and Science

Colorado State University is currently engaging in a new consortium together with Kansas State University, Iowa State University, Texas A&M, the University of California at Davis and the University of Nebraska. The consortium, the Coalition for Epi-Response Engagement and Science (CERES), will explore leveraging existing assets at our land-grant universities in new ways to bring focus to efforts intended to provide resilient and agile solutions in agricultural biodefense. By embracing our heritage of innovation transfer to farmers, ranchers, producers, and our communities, we can further the efforts that have made the agricultural base of the U.S. the envy of the world. The consortium is expected to be formalized before the end of October 2018.